‘If a child wants help...we’re here to help’

  • Friday, August 8, 2014

Lisa Hart has always had a desire to help teenagers.

“I believe if a child knows better, they’ll do better,” she said.

In September 2012 she opened Carolina Teen Center, a teen after-school center (or TASC) in Ridgeville. The center’s headquarters are located inside Ridgeville’s Town Hall, and also caters to St. George, Summerville, Walterboro and surrounding areas. It provides educational and prevention programs and workshops for students in grades seven through twelve in Dorchester School District Four. Hart is hoping to expand into Dorchester District Two.

TASC centers are geared toward non-violent male and female youth who are at risk of incarceration, but Hart said the Carolina Teen Center’s services also cater to anti-bullying, childhood obesity and other prevention services.

“Whatever you issue you have, it can be dealt with in here,” she said. “If a child wants help, then we’re here to help them.”

On Aug. 5 the Carolina Teen Center announced its partnership with South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).

“We’ve been here a while – we’re just getting to a point where everyone knows that we’re here,” Hart said. “It took a while to build these partnerships.”

In celebration of this partnership with DJJ the Carolina Teen Center held a luncheon, where DJJ Dorchester County Director Sherman Clark was invited to speak.

Clark said the partnership is really important because the program establishes a place, after school hours, for at-risk kids.

“The importance of a TASC site is to put some things in place for after-school hours for our kids, because that is normally the time when our kids get into trouble,” he said.

Sean Wilson, Coastal Region prevention/intervention specialist with DJJ, said TASC sites partner with other agencies to bring a more “realistic approach” to serving youth; it is about providing structure to keep teenagers from being incarcerated.

Wilson reported 90 percent of youth served by TASC sites did not re-offend while participating in the program.

“What that means is, kids who are under some supervision – whether it’s probation or parole with the Department of Juvenile Justice – once these kids are placed in a TASC center, 90 percent of those kids did not commit another crime, and of course, that is because they now have people who have expectations of them,” Wilson said. “They have a place they can go to that has a lot of structure.

“That is why it’s very important for us to continue to support our TASC centers,” Wilson added. “We now have 38 TASC centers within South Carolina. They are located all across the state.”

Wilson said officials are looking to implement job readiness training (JRT) in the Dorchester area, a program that would allow internship hours to kids in the community.

“We are definitely looking forward to wonderful things happening at Carolina Teen Center,” he said.

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